By Maria Geokezas, VP of Client Services at Heinz Marketing

Here at Heinz Marketing we are really proud of the experience we offer our clients through each and every engagement.  A large chunk of our business is from returning clients and we think that’s the best proof of a positive customer experience.  To be honest, our customer experience has developed quite organically.  It is rooted in our company values and is evident in every person we hire (otherwise they wouldn’t be here!).  But that’s not enough anymore.  As we grow, we need to ensure the experience we provide is consistent with the one that helped us achieve our success to-date.

We started being more intentional about our customer experience about 18 months ago.  As a management exercise, we first defined our customer experience, then mapped out our customers’ life cycle and success metrics.  Once we had a loose “straw man” structure in place, we knew we had to involve the team in the development of our customer experience.  We asked them for their input with one simple question:  What makes us special?

Fortunately, we heard very consistent answers with our values.  Our team members reported what makes us special is our values, and how we actually live and work by them; how we put our customers’ needs before our own; how we listen and adjust quickly; how we prioritize educating and coaching clients above creating dependency to ensure ongoing work.

But to truly put these words and ideas into practice, we needed to do more to make customer experience tangible for our team members.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  If everyone applies different elements of our values, we dilute what makes Heinz Marketing special and lose our special brand of customer experience.

To move forward, we took a step back by taking several customer experience training sessions from LinkedIn Learning (hit me up in the comments if you want to know which videos we used).  We wanted to know what the experts had to say.  Each team member watched the videos on their own time.  Then we reconvened as a group to discuss our findings.  These conversations were very fruitful!  From these conversations the team identified three areas for development:

Develop a survey program:  Developing a customer experience approach without the input from customers doesn’t make any sense.  We determined we didn’t really understand how our brand of customer experience was being received by our clients.  Even though 60% of our clients return or extend their initial engagement, we have been blind as to the causes.  So, we will start surveying our clients in the middle of each engagement to make sure we are on track and expectations are being met as well as after the engagement ends to understand the whole of our client’s experience with us.

Refine client on-boarding:  You only have one chance to make a first impression.  And the first impression sets the tone for the entire engagement.  We think we can boost customer experience with some simple and intentional steps that encourage greater communication and build consistency between the sales process and client services.  These steps include introducing clients to the client services team earlier in the process, showcasing consultant expertise, jointly defining the scope of work and detailed preparations that demonstrate value at the first meeting.

Strengthen post-engagement relationships:  It’s inevitable all engagements come to an end – no matter how exceptional the solution and the relationship that’s been developed over the course of time.  Our goal has always been to ensure the solution we provide is useful and easy to implement.  We designed a post-engagement process to ensure our clients feel supported once the official hand-off of deliverables and recommendations has been made.  We hope to be a part of our clients’ long term success and find when we keep the relationship going outside of a formal engagement, and we continue to demonstrate value and generosity about sharing our expertise, the client benefits and so do we.

We are excited to roll out these new programs and are thankful to our team for their input and enthusiasm around making the Heinz Marketing Customer Experience special.  #HMCX